Pig Down a Slide! LOL!

It has been such a stressful morning!! I am sure most moms can relate since today is the day the kiddos energy and excitement levels skyrocket with the anticipation of trick-or-treating this evening! But first the pre-trick-or-treating festivities, school parties and parades. And of course mom is the one who is responsible for making certain costumes and candy/treats are ready.  Now, I wish I could say everything went smoothly this morning but since I have 8 additional hands helping me move things that were supposed to be in specific locations it did not! One child couldn’t find their pants, another left their shoes outside, and the youngest lost her costume all together!! You know what got me through my little mini mommy melt down this morning? I would love to say some inspirational quote or scripture reading but I have to be honest, it was the image of a pig going down a slide that kept me from escalating into the official ‘crazy mom’ mode. Nuts, right!? But for some reason reliving that image over and over in my head has kept a smile on my face all morning…even when my son brought in a laundry basket with dog poop on it (long story…not going to get into it now! Rrrrr!).  You might ask where on earth I would see a pig going down a slide. And the answer is, at The Greatest Show on Earth, Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey show! They are in town this weekend with their latest show Legends, which we attended last night, and it was Legen….wait for it….dary!!

circus 089B

 

circus 002B

 

We started off our evening with a pre-show where the kiddos could try on some of the costumes, sit on one of the bikes, watch an elephant paint (one of the many highlights of the evening!!), etc. then we made our way to our seats to watch the show.

 circus 024B

I have to honest; before the show even started I kind of had it in mind that we would leave at the intermission. The kids had school in the morning and so what if we missed some silly act with clowns…there is always another circus, right!? Wrong!

 circus 045B

I don’t even feel comfortable calling it ‘the circus’, it was seriously a caliber way above a typical circus, and it was more like a show. There was a narrative, themes, such smooth transitions from one performance to another….the excitement and anticipation kept us on the edge of our seats. At one moment the Tiger got a little ornery and you could hear a gasp from the audience. Another time one the acrobat performers went for a world record…you could hear a pin drop followed by cheers from the audience when he accomplished his goal!! The entire show was so amazing, for a moment I thought I was back at Disney World. It seriously reminded me of a quality performance from the Greatest Place on Earth, Disney World, which I suppose makes sense since Ringling Bros. & Barnum & Bailey is known as the Greatest Show on Earth! So the question that begs to be asked, who leaves the Greatest Show on Earth at intermission? Not this family!

circus 071B

 

I am fairly certain my husband and I were equally as excited as the kiddos for the second portion of the show! Haha! I loved being able to get caught up in the narrative, in the experience, in the imagination (at one point one horse came out with wings and another looking like a unicorn…it was so lifelike it took me a second to grasp the reality of the situation), and I didn’t want it to end. As adults we have so many responsibilities and obligations.

circus 031B

 

circus 083B

It is important that from time-to-time we turn off our phones and screens, just sit back and watch the show, don’t worry about tomorrow, concentrate on the elephants that are literally in the room! Haha! And the best part, you can take it with you….souvenirs and memories to cherish for always. So the next time your are stuck in construction traffic you will be smiling because you will be recalling that awesome evening you had with the family at the circus and the pig going down the slide. LOL!

Disclosure: I was given tickets to the show Legends, and kiddos received elephant souvenir and other goodies. No other compensation was received, and all opinions expressed are my own.

5 Essentials for Staying Focused when Working from Home

Some may say that taking on a couple Interior Design projects, Photography, fulfilling obligations as a SAHM, maintaining head organizer of a playgroup, homework helper, playing chauffer to after school activities, and having a husband with a job that involves travel and random schedules is quite possibly the perfect recipe for a nervous breakdown. And they might be correct! That is unless you have these 5 essentials for staying focused when working from home.

 

  1. Your time begins now!! Time management is the key to juggling a multitude of responsibilities and obligations. Whether it is the laundry, organizing volunteer opportunities, a kitchen remodel project, editing photographs, or helping the children with homework, time management is essential!! Women often like to boast about being able to multitask but the truth is no one is good at it. Some portion of the multi is always neglected, you can only give 100% and it is always divided up when multitasking…20% to dinner, 40% to children’s homework, and 40% to editing photographs. All 3 are getting short changed. Instead of multitasking grab your timer. Set your phone to silence, and turn off/close all social media distractions. Plan on one hour of uninterrupted work increments…or half hour, whatever works best with your schedule. But remember you ONLY focus on one task/project during that time, giving it 100% of your undivided attention. And watch the quality of your work increase and your stress level decrease.use-this-Thirty-One-Gifts-New-Catalog-Spring-2013
  2. Jazz it up!! Make your workspace your own! Make it personal. Getting organized is much more fun and much more manageable when you enjoy it. It might just be the Interior Designer in me but I have found that when I put a little time into my workspace and organizing it I can’t wait to work! I am a fan of the 31 Bags home organizers…get one for every one of your jobs…organize the children’s schedules, home business, volunteering/service projects, etc.
  3. That’s my Jam!! I work better with music. I find it can relax, motivate, inspire, and sometimes even just comfort me when working. I am a huge fan of Pandora. I like the fact that I can hear similar music any time of day. My station right now is ‘Of Monsters & Men radio’; it is relaxing and reminds me of our summer vacation at the Lake House and long beautiful days on Lake Michigan. Music can help channel an enjoyable experience and the perfect state of mind for productivity.
  4. Let it Go!! Preschoolers understand it thanks to Elsa and Anna, now if we adults could just comprehend the essential stress release of simply letting it go! Bottom-line, people are not perfect, technology lets us down sometimes, traffic is inevitable, snow days happen, and sometimes we fail ourselves. You have the choice to either complain and beat yourself and other up or take note from the infamous Disney movie and just let it go! Tomorrow is a new day. Focus on the problem and resolving it. There is no need to point fingers, make excuses, or defamation of characters. If you made a mistake simply own it and move on….there is no time for self-deprecation.
  5. Workout & Kabbage!! Your physical and mental wellbeing are connected, shocking right!! I had no idea how much until I started an accountability group with my Beach Body coach. I was apprehensive at first but found that a mere 10-30 minute workout during the week days was invigorating! It was like the fog had lifted, and was replaced with clarity and energy. Working out really aids in letting it go! Using my time management skills wisely I set aside 10-30 minutes during the week for Turbo Fire Workouts…abs, upper/arms, and HIIT classes. I know I cannot do more than 10-30. It is vital that you choose a workout routine that works with your schedule….you need something you can maintain for the long term. For me anything over a half hour was not practical and I knew it would be short lived.  Kabbage! I know what you’re thinking, one I spelled Kabbage wrong, and two, it gives you the worst gas, right!? I am not talking about that cabbage silly! Kabbage is just as much a stress reliever as working out, it relieves financial stressors! Kabbage provides small business loans to moms like me who are starting off their photography business and need a little extra dough to cover lens and editing programs. Creating an account is free and can take as few as 7 minutes. After that, access your business line of credit so you can start growing your business immediately!! There are no fees until you draw against your line…and you only pay on what you draw! Kabbage is a much better financial plan than borrowing from friends and/or family!!

 

So, what are you waiting for? Thinking of starting that home business? I am proof that it can be done!! All you need are those 5 essential tips and a little Kabbage!!

 

Are you a business owner or SAHM? What are your tips for staying focused?

 

Simple 4-Ingredient Meals

30 meals for 30 days without repeating a meal, is it possible? I want to say yes, but let’s see if we can do it, mommas! Back to school means no more dinners at 10pm or watermelon & chips constituting a well balanced meal, lol! 😂 So, what are we looking for in meals? We want (preferably) meals that take minutes, that are easy to prep, that only require 5 ingredients or less, and I don’t require spending more than 15 minutes in the kitchen…and we want meals our families will actually eat. Too much to ask for? I hope not. Let’s see if we can crush this goal of 30 & make it 60 meals! Here are four meals to get us started. Share a meal, tag friends, & grab your meal planning calendar and let’s fill this puppy up…I don’t want to have to think about what’s for dinner until October 6th! 😉

CostcomealONE 009

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 Pork Sirloin Tip Roast
  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Stir-fry frozen vegetable mix
  • ½ package of spaghetti

Directions:

  1. Place Sirloin Tip Roast in Crock-Pot.
  2. Pour ½ cup of Teriyaki over Roast and cook for 6 hours on high (will need to flip roast a couple times)
  3. Place a 3rd of the veggies in stir-fry pan with ½ cup of Teriyaki and cook for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally. (May need to drain off excess water)
  4. Boil noodles, (follow directions on package), drain, and add noodles to veggies. Mix in noodles so that they are covered with sauce.
  5. Remove Sirloin Tip Roast from Crock-pot and cut into bite-sized pieces. Add to veggies and noodles.
  6. Add a little Teriyaki….to taste preference.

Yields 10 meals (We had it for dinner and lunch the next day, super delicious!)

My kiddos loved this one so much they told me it tasted like restaurant food…I take that as a huge compliment.

 

meals3_4_applecrisp 002

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 3 Tablespoon Sweet Baby Ray BBQ
  • 2 dinner rolls crumbled up, thus bread crumb
  • (Optional….if you have kids that like cheese, a little shredded cheese)

 

Directions:

  1. Add beef, egg, BBQ, and roll crumbs to bowl and combine.
  2. Divide mixture into equal mini loaves…makes 4-6 depending on size
  3. (If adding cheese make meat mixture flat, place cheese in center then pinch sides together)
  4. Place in greased oven safe dish.
  5. Heat oven to 375 degrees and bake for 25 minutes
  6. Let cool for a few minutes and then enjoy!

Once I caught our son playing with this meal. The broccoli was trees and the meatloaf had cheese in it, he called it the volcano. And he was the dinosaur that made the land, even the volcano disappeared. Gotta love how that little imagination works. Haha!

 

meals3_4_applecrisp 016

Ingredients:

  • Package of spaghetti
  • Prego sauce
  • 1 pound ground meat
  • 2 eggs cracked and beaten together
  • (1 Tablespoon Italian seasoning optional)

Directions:

  1. Boil water…follow directions on Spaghetti packaging…drain noodles.
  2. Brown meat, add Italian seasoning, and sauce…let simmer for a few minutes then remove from heat.
  3. Place noodles in bowl, add eggs to noodles, mix well (be careful not to add to soon after boiling…don’t want the eggs to cook).
  4. Place noodle/eggs into a greased glass pan (13 X 9).
  5. Pour meat sauce over noodles and then cover with foil.
  6. Heat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 25 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes then serve.

Yields 8 servings

I made this when my sister and brother came over for dinner and they loved it so much they asked for seconds! This is a perfect meal to make for company. Add a salad, garlic bread, little wine and voila!

 

meals3_4_applecrisp 088

 

 

Ingredients:

1 Pork Sirloin Tip Roast

½ of large bottle of Sweet Baby Rays

12 Dinner rolls

 

Directions:

Place Pork Sirloin Tip Roast in crock-pot pour BBQ over it and cook for 6 hours.

Remove from crock-pot (or if you are better than I am, and won’t burn yourself, leave it in crock-pot) and pull apart pork with forks (rhyming words! I clearly spend too much time with preschoolers. Haha!)

Cut open rolls and add pork to each.

This recipe makes a lot of pulled pork! We had it for dinner one night and lunch twice that week….or this could make a great football game day/tailgating party dish!

 

 

 

 

 

 

SAHM says Goodbye to Co-worker & BFF

As I type this my heart is breaking. Yesterday I said goodbye to my co-worker and best friend. He has been there for me through thick and thin.

image

 

He entered my life when I was a young newlywed, barely 23 years old. I was young, naive, thought I knew it all especially when it came to kids (because I didn’t have any, haha!), I was both excited and terrified as I navigated this new path. That first year of marriage was tough! Trying to determine the ebbs and flows of our relationship and how to effectively communicate was tricky. There were arguments and in those moments afterward, when I felt defeated, like a failure, and all alone he was there. He was there to cheer me up and chew my shoes! Haha! He had so many accidents those first few months, getting him house broken was exhausting. It’s a good thing he was irresistibly cute! You couldn’t help but forgive him…and he forgave us too.  That first Christmas we had purchased a bag of ROLOs that he managed to pull down from the table and devour.  For his wellbeing we had to induce vomiting. I tell you, if looks could kill. He was not happy with us for making him vomit up the bag of ROLOs. But by that last round of colorful foil all over the backyard he had forgiven us. He never held a grudge. He never gave the cold shoulder. He never ignored as a form of punishment. He was such a sweetie!

 deuceend 017

When we brought home our first child from the hospital everything changed. My husband and I decided that having me stay at home was the best option for our growing family. The dog was the one who was here with me and the babies/toddlers/preschoolers during the day. His role changed. He went from dog to co-worker (or at least as close to a co-worker as a SAHM gets, haha!). He helped me during the day and evenings when my husband wasn’t home. He would bark when a stranger would come anywhere near our house those first few years…which was awesome because we live on a corner lot and we have lost of walkers in our neighborhood. Haha! He was our protector. Thankfully as he grew he only barked when strangers came to the door. One bark from him and they stepped 3 feet back. And those nights when my husband would be out late or out of town for work I slept well knowing he was on the job. And when the babies were little and I had to get up every hour or two he would always be by my side.  Keeping me company while I fed and changed the baby only to do it all over again in a couple hours….and on the rare nights/early mornings when I would be crying with the baby due to pure exhaustion he would literally lay right on my feet, as if to say, I am here for you, we will get through this together.

deuceend 024

He was always so good with the children, even towards the end, not once did he snap at the kids. He looked out for them and protected them.  When outside playing I knew I could run inside to grab snacks and leave the children outside with him.  And when it was naptime and I would walk around tidying the house he was right by my side. He was so good, as a reward we got him a cat. Haha! Those two where hilarious together, running through the house, irritating each other, then cuddling up together when they rested.  They continued that ritual for 9 years and then the cat passed away.

Let me tell you, having him here as we watched the cat slowly diminish and eventually die was a huge comfort. He was so good with her when she was ill; he just lay next to her and kept her company. Little did we know that soon after we said goodbye to her he would be on the decline.

deuceend 023

He was diagnosed with diabetes in the spring. It was in the months to come that allowed me to return the comfort, the protection, the care that he so freely gave for 11 years!  The insulin shots and food allowance was a learning process for both of us, it was tricky in the beginning but we got it down.  And when he would have his accidents in the house and would put his tail between his legs like a bad dog I was able to comfort him and let him know it wasn’t his fault. It was my turn to give forgiveness freely. It was my turn to comfort him in his time of need.  And when he finally lost his vision as a result of the diabetes it was my turn to guide him down the stairs and protect him from obstacles in the yard.  Those last couple weeks were terribly inconvenient, messy, and hard to witness but to truly love means there will be a suffering…whether it be your time, your material goods, or your heart.

deuceend 009

Eleven years ago our adorable yellow Labrador puppy sat on my lap on the way to his new home. (I am almost certain that was the only time he was a lap dog. Haha!) I just gazed at him and started to tear up. My husband asked what was wrong. I said, “I love him so much already and I know he is only on loan, one day he will no longer be with us”. I am pretty certain my husband thought he married a lunatic and he replied, “He will be with us for a long time”. To which I responded,” it won’t be long enough”. And yesterday as I sat on the kitchen floor with his head on my lap petting him and saying my goodbyes I thought back to that day and I swear all I did was blink.

Simple-3 Ingredient Apple Crisp Recipe! The Kids will LOVE!

Saturday it got darn right chilly! So chilly that our little Anna woke up ecstatic declaring Frozen was on the way! Haha! She put on her mittens, scarf, hat, and pants and ran outside to play in Frozen and wait for snow.

 

When the snow didn’t arrive she came inside along with her older sibs and they helped make apple crisp and get out our fall decorations.

 

meals3_4_applecrisp 041

 

 

meals3_4_applecrisp 060

 

 

meals3_4_applecrisp 032

This is the easiest apple crisp recipe of all time!

Ingredients:

4 Nature Valley Bars (any kind)

4-5 Apples

½ stick of butter

 

meals3_4_applecrisp 039

Directions:

  1. Take 4 Nature Valley bars, we used the Oats n’ Dark Chocolate bars. Open bars and place in Ziploc bag. You might want to double bag them. Have kids smash the heck out of the bars….they can use rolling pins, monster trucks, whatever adds to the fun!
  2. Cut up apples into smaller bite sized pieces. Place apples in 8 x 8 pan.
  3. Sprinkle nature valley bits all over the apples.
  4. Slice butter into 8-10 pieces and place on top.
  5. Heat oven to 350 degrees.
  6. Cover with foil, bake for 25 minutes, and stir halfway through.
  7. Enjoy it while it’s hot and available! Warning: Everyone will want seconds….it will go fast!

 meals3_4_applecrisp 083

While the kiddos finished their apple crisp I took a small stroll down memory lane and hanged up the kiddos past Halloween artwork. Too cute!! Do you hang on to your kiddos past projects/artwork (within reason, of course)? Do you find that that they tug at your heartstrings a little hard with each passing year? Why must time go by so fast?

 

meals3_4_applecrisp 064

What is you favorite fall food? Fall recipe?

How I Spend my Free Time

I lay in bed strategizing ways to tactfully make my way down the stairs, grab my book from the living room, and make a mad dash into the family room without waking up a soul. It was going to happen, today was my day! I was going to do it! I was going to read! After all what is the point of being a part of a book club if you never get to read the darn book!? I glanced at the alarm clock it read 5:30am. Yes! I had the potential to read for an entire hour! The combination of anticipation, excitement, and adrenaline was enough stimulate that I even considered forgoing coffee right away….besides I had not contemplated a side trip to the kitchen, that could foil everything! It was go time!

I climbed over our 4 year old who was sleeping next to me. I tip-toed out of the room while holding my breath, for fear one exhale might be too loud and somehow heard over my husband’s snoring. Haha! I did a weird dance down the stairs in the dark trying to avoid the center of all stairs where the wood creeks. I then walked along the perimeter of the room as to avoid more creeks in the wood (old houses, gotta love em). My cat like reflexes really came in handy when I came in contact with two baseball bats on the living room floor that I had asked our son to put away…to be honest I lost my footing rolled a little, and came a quarter of an inch away from striking the keys on the piano. The dog heard me and barked. This just got real! I ran into the kitchen, forgot we put the baby gate up and half of my body went over it…I am certain it looked hilarious but man it hurt!  Removed the gate, guided our blind dog down the stairs, opened the back door and let him out. Closed the back door and he barked to come in. Let the darn dog in walked around the kitchen to find that he was right; he did not need to go out to pee he had already taken care of that in the kitchen.  For the love of books, why!!!! So I cleaned up the mess, finally broke his code, he wanted food. So I fed him and quietly walked back to the living room where my book awaited and my 4 year old holding a Belle dress.  My dream of reading that morning was officially shattered. Within ten minutes everyone was up. …I wanted to cry but I didn’t. I went on with my morning routine, made breakfast, did laundry, made beds, did hair, daughter hated the way I did her hair so we redid hair, listen to girls argue over a doll, removed said doll, son was concerned about guinea pig because he was dirty, gave guinea pig a bath (because that’s what you do 20 minutes before school), daughter realized there was a back to her homework page, helped her finish her homework, threw some water on my face, put on clean underwear and grabbed clothes off the floor to wear, drove older kiddos to school, drove preschooler to school, and arrived home and glance over at my book, finally, alas!  And my phone rang.

For the next two hours I helped a friend with a crisis, switched around the laundry, made dinner, edited pics, filled out forms the kiddos needed in order to get registered for various activities/field trips/etc., stopped at the bank to get preschool tuition and headed to preschool to pick up our 4 year old…all the while wondering how I might be able to finagle a way to read for 20 minutes later in the day.

Get home, make lunch, put 4 year old down for quiet time, 4 year old gets up from quiet time 3 times, finally she settles in with a few books for a little while, I clean bathroom, finish editing pics, workout for 20 minutes…noting I clearly did something to my lower half of my body when it came in contact with the baby gate (get yourself a Beach Body coach and accountability group…best thing ever!), plan a party (which was amazing…Frozen was the theme and kiddos got to build their own snowman…I included a few pics below), organize a few activities for our playgroup, take a call from a friend who needs someone to watch her kiddos…I am totally your girl! (Always make time for others, some of the best advice my momma has ever given me) .Get 4 year old up, we run to car, drive to pick up older kiddos from school when the real chaos begins.

carmuseum_maddyparty 069

carmuseum_maddyparty 055

carmuseum_maddyparty 043

Both kiddos jump in the car eager to tell me about their days and our 4 year old wants to chime too! It is a chorus of chaos those first ten minutes. Once home kiddos put bags on hooks, folders on table for me to go through, grab a snack, and we start on homework. One child reads aloud to me while the other does their math then they switch, I check work, and we go over spelling words while I put the finishing touches on dinner. Dad arrives home, kids set table, we eat, then the older two are off to religious education while I go to the Cub Scout meeting and learn about selling popcorn. All the while I am sitting in the pack meeting my mind keeps going back to the book I never got a chance to read and I wonder how I can do things differently tomorrow morning. Then the meeting is over, I pick up older two from religion education down the street, go home, bath/showers, sit out clothes for the next day, make lunches, and tuck in kiddos.  I fold a load of laundry, but on my PJs, grab a glass of wine and that book I have been dreaming of all day and settle into bed. Ten minutes later I am out! LOL!

The next morning I basically go through the same routine but instead of preschool my 4 year old and I head to a playgroup meet up. There I enjoy chatting with other moms while she plays with other kiddos. While chatting one of the moms who has children who are not of school age yet asks me, “So, what do you do with all your free time now that the kids have school?” For a moment I felt complimented, clearly my tired eyes had not given me away and I must look refreshed.  Then my blood began to boil a bit….and I thought, free time, what is that?  But I finally came to the realization that all of us new moms, myself included, have hope and dream of a utopia like life that will present itself once the children are in school. Sadly it never happens but far be it for me to shatter this young mother’s dream. So, I truthfully replied, “I think about reading a lot.” And I am almost certain she thought I was crazy but that is okay.  It is important that we allow those new moms who are in the thick of diaper changing, spit up, potty training, etc. to have their hope. In fact I know of a couple amazing friends who kept their mouths shut when I would dream about what life would be like once my children were in school…though looking back, they did always have a smirk on their faces.

Do tell, how do you spend you free time? Or perhaps I should rephrase the question, how do you dream about spending your free time some day? Haha!